Typos p. 106: Geni [= Gini]; p. 106: Geni [= Gini]
The way of all women *
Anthony M. Ludovici
The New English Weekly 3, 1933, pp. 105106
- p. 105 -
My first impulse was to laugh. But she was not in the least disposed even to smile at the matter, although, according to her own confession, she had deliberately worked herself up to a paroxysm of grief over the death of a complete stranger! A similar story is told of Balzac, who, on reading aloud the last letter written by Esther, one of his characters, before her suicide, burst into tears and exclaimed: "Comme c'est beau!"
It is this intensity of imaginative power which, rightly or wrongly, I associate with Jung's introverted type; and as I regard women as preponderatingly introverted, I expect this power in them. In fact, it constitutes one of their most seductive qualities. The male artist who possesses it is the richer for this attribute borrowed from the other sex.
If imagination is merely racial memory, as I believe Kipling says it is, such literary figures as Emily Brontë and Fanny Burney are explained without the need of postulating secret unrecorded experiences, which some people assume must have preceded their feats in fiction.
It may be objected that since we all have the same long past in the race, we must all have racial memories, and therefore imagination. This does not follow. In order to know our racial memories, we must live in ourselves and become aware of our hidden treasure. And woman and the male artist do actually live more in themselves than does the average male, particularly in the present day when everything forces the latter, as Jung has demonstrated, to project his attention outside himself.
This Dr. Harding shows very well. She points out also how very much nearer to Nature woman is than the average man. "If she will only let herself act uncensored," says Dr. Harding, "then she can observe in herself, in her own actions, the working of pure nature." The question is whether the present Age is not forcing woman almost as much as man to turn all attention to things outside, and thus to neglect the richer side of the individual which, of course, must be the treasure of racial memories in all of us.
Be this as it may, Dr. Harding's book reveals a more profound and more sympathetic understanding of women than it has been my good fortune to find in any work since I read Stendhal's "De l'Amour" just after the War. It also possesses the great advantage of
* "The Way of All Women." By M. Esther Harding, M.D. With Introduction by C. G. Jung, M.D. Longmans Green and Co., New York. 3 dollars.
Bearing upon the reference to Jung above, and the difference between the generally extraverted man and introverted woman, take this excellent passage in Dr. Harding's second chapter:
These points may be obvious to the psychologist; but they badly need restating after all the wild claims of extreme feminism. The whole of Chapter III is, in fact, a model of wisdom on the question of Women's Work, and things we may hardly have dared to say but which we may long have known, are boldly stated here with a candour that does their author great credit. For instance, can there be any question about the two alternatives now open to a woman who enters any sphere of life in which she is the constant witness of cruel suffering? I have long thought that there are two and only two a breakdown, or else an over-compensated hardness. Dr. Harding admits this; but points to a third. She suggests that where the pivotal value of a woman's life is religious, she may, resist both the breakdown and the hardening process by an appeal to the will of God. She adds, however, "Only a minority of women find that real adaptation to life and to humanity at large which comes by no other way than through the recognition of a value, which is superior to those personal ones which guide a woman in her individual life." Difficult as the investigation would be, someone ought really to try to discover how lay hospital nurses compare with those in the service of some religious order, from the standpoint of surviving without injury to character or constitution the constant spectacle of human suffering.
No reader of this book should skip the chapter on Friendship, particularly the discussion on women friendships. "Love between women," says Dr. Harding, "does not necessarily involve physical sexuality. Viewed from one angle such a friendship would not be called homosexual. Yet for women who have no sexual expression in their lives the repressed instinct is bound to colour their major relationship and give it that quality of emotionality which is the earmark of erotic involvement, even though no overt sexual acts, nor even sexual impulses are present."
In her chapter on Marriage, Dr. Harding raises a timely protest against that modern tendency in erotics which emphasises the art of love as a sort of drill or set of exercises calculated to improve the relationship of the sexes, and points out that "it cannot be practised successfully if it is viewed only as a technique." It is, of course, fantastic that man should ever have needed to learn from special teachers an art that the animals master so well. But in those who need the teaching has not something already gone which no teaching can replace? Is there not, as Professor Corrado Geni suggests, and even goes some way towards demonstrating,* evidence of a decline in the genetic instincts in such people? For, it should be noted, that at least according to my own observation it is not the working classes, but the refined and cultivated middle-classes of Anglo-Saxon countries who are chiefly in need of such teaching.
It would take too long to enumerate all the excellent qualities of Dr. Harding's book. On the other hand, there is so little to cavil at in it, that were I to mention the few points to which violent exception may be taken, I would necessarily give an entirely false impression of its value. If I mention some of them, I hope it will be understood that the space they take up in this article is not, by any means, an Indication of their importance relative to the rest of the work. This is a warning too often omitted in criticism, particularly when the balance is greatly in favour of the author. Every author has suffered in this way, and I speak as one of the sufferers.
I join issue with Dr. Harding chiefly on the point so ably raised by Corrado Geni. I believe there has been in the last hundred years a marked decline in the genetic instincts of the Anglo-Saxon race, and that to argue and lay down principles without taking this decline into account, is to risk forfeiting one's claim to be heard as a sound thinker.
The whole of the chapter "Off the Beaten Track," in which the authoress discusses sexual intercourse outside marriage, fails to be convincing on this account. It is not conceivable that a whole generation of young people could take to "petting" and "necking" without always and inevitably being driven to sexual congress, unless something were wrong with their instincts. We know of instances like the one mentioned by Dr. Harding, in which even the bed has been reached without anything happening. But to explain such cases away by saying that healthy youthful sleepiness overtakes the young couple, who have been "deceived as to the nature of their emotions," before their love is consummated, is to my mind to deal trivially with very serious and disquieting" state of affairs.
I also take exception to Dr. Harding's rather shallow treatment of precocious sex-gratification. The fact to be deplored here is not that the adolescent is claiming prerogatives to which he "has not grown up," but rather that he is snatching rewards for which he has not yet won his spurs. Nature teaches us this, and I cannot understand how a thinker so penetrating as Dr. Harding could have overlooked Nature's lesson in this matter.
However, the book is too good throughout for these blemishes to mar its quality, and Dr. Harding is to be congratulated on having made a genuine contribution to a difficult branch of knowledge.
* See Lectures on the Harris Foundation. New York, 1929.